Sometimes my father makes casual comments that not only bring back memories, but also frighten me. My son says I’m easily frightened by almost anything and everything, but he doesn’t have the same painful memories and experiences roaming around in his brain! So when my father casually mentions that he is planting 50 tomato plants, I know why…so he will be able to “can” the tomatoes.
Now first of all, I never understood why the accepted term for home food preservation became “canning”. No one uses cans at home. The food is preserved in jars, Mason jars to be exact. The food preserved in jars is pretty, but it can also be very dangerous. Do the wrong thing with the wrong food and you risk salmonella or worse.
Canning involves a lot of preparation, planning, and science. You have to ask yourself a lot of questions. Are you preserving fruits, vegetables, or meats? High acid foods or low acid foods? Do you need to use the “open water bath method” or the “pressure cooker method”? How many minutes? And the most important question of all, “Will the lid of the pressure cooker stay on or will it launch itself into the ceiling, thereby making a sound and a hole that will haunt your daughter for the rest of her life?”A more accurate term for canning might be “taking your life into your own hands” or perhaps “food prep roulette”.
Food preservation was just a normal part of a woman’s duties in my grandmother’s generation. By the time my mother was cooking the practice was a little more arbitrary. I think most of my generation gave up the practice as being far too time consuming to be worth doing. However, I still have a few friends who make jelly or preserve green beans from the garden.
My father, on the other hand, is 80 years old!! Not only do I not trust his memory of what and how he is canning- sorry Dad- but I question his need to do so. How much can the man eat??? I know his grandmother filled an entire room with pretty jars of fruits and vegetables. But I think my dad can buy a few extra cans of tomato sauce at WalMart and be set for the winter! (When we bought her house years later that storage room became my bedroom! Irony at its best.)
I leave you with this article I found in the Caddo Herald.
The Caddo Herald
January 25, 1929
Food Programs go to Every County -Home Work Shows
Stillwater, Okla.- According to an announcement in the Extension Division annual report at the Oklahoma A. and M. College, at least one phase of the food program was carried out in each county by county home demonstration agents. These were under the heading of food preservation, food selection, or food preparation.
The canning budget, whereby the woman in the home determines the amount of products she should can, according to the needs of her family, was worked out by 429 women. Of this number 381 canned the complete requirements of their budget.
In food preparation vegetable cookery and bread campaigns were stressed. There were 2,861 women and 14,033 girls carrying on food preparation demonstrations. Special bread work was done in eight counties and as a result of this work, 981 women reported improving their method of making bread.
In food selection, attention was given to good selection of food in the daily diet and to adopting food practices that would give definite health results. There were 1,261 women who carried on food selection demonstrations and 555 4-H club members conducted 4-H club demonstrations.
There were 248 schools that served a hot dish in the school lunch for the first time as a result of the work of the demonstration agents.
The food and nutrition problem is a vital one and is of intense interest to every woman in her home since she is the engineer of the health of her family, the report says.